During winter our horses weights fluctuate with the changes in temperature. Some breeds gain more weight than others predisposing them to health issues such as obesity. Ashley Neely, BSc SQP, gives four simple tips on for controlling weight during the winter.
As temperatures decrease, horses naturally increase their forage intake to create more heat from hindgut fermentation. Studies on native breeds, have shown them to slow their metabolic rate, which allows them to utilize all nutrients from poor quality forage.
A common mistake made by horse owners is to over feed during the winter months, sufficient forage and a supplementation of essential vitamins, minerals and proteins via a balancer is sometimes sufficient.
Four Simple Tips for Controlling Weight in Winter:
* Carry out Weekly Condition Scores – Keep a close eye on your horse’s weight using condition scores or using a weight tape. Ensure to take rugs off weekly to check for rubs, wounds and weight loss. Remember, it is harder to visually assess your horses weight when they aren’t clipped, make sure to feel for fat across their ribs and hip areas. An ideal condition score for a horse in light work during winter would be 2.5 – 3. Bluegrass Nice and Easy range and Horse and Pony Range are both ideal feeds for “good doers” to provide a balanced diet without excess energy levels.
* Feed according to work- Extra energy is required when work status is increased, it is important to understand the level of work your horse is at and if an additional fortified feed or balancer is required to meet their energy and nutrient demands. Feeding excessive energy can lead to problems to growth in young horses as well as behavioral problems.
* Forage Intake – Provide a minimum of 1.5-2% of body weight in forage per day. Poor Quality forage should be supplemented with a fortified feed or balancer to ensure your horse is receiving sufficient vitamins and minerals. A balancer such as Bluegrass Stamm 30, is ideal for “Good Doers”, when weight gain is not desired. Stamm 30 is fortified in premium quality proteins, vitamins and minerals.
* Climate - Over- rugging should be avoided as it can predispose horses and ponies to obesity and health related issues. Shelter is to be provided during winter months and provision of increased forage when temperatures become low.
A balanced diet, access to clean water and adequate daily salt intake are recommended by The Kentucky Equine Research (KER) as the basic feeding guidelines for horse owner. With the use of KER Microsteed software, Bluegrass Horse Feed can design a tailored nutritional ration for your horse this winter.